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Contra 4 (DS) artwork

Contra 4 (DS) review


"Contra with a vengeance"


Contra 4 combines various elements of previous entries in the series and then amps up the challenge factor just enough to make your stand on your toes the entire time you play it. On this entry for the DS we learn that Black Viper has come back to attack the Earth after her defeat in Operation C, a GameBoy entry from ages ago. This time, the enemy isn't fooling around, taking over an entire area plus devastating cities and tormenting its populace all while sending their very worst at the Contra force.

However you are also prepared. Contra features outstanding arsenal power-ups plus four muscle-bound heroes who were protagonists of prior games. Well, sort of. The entire group of heroes is named with both the original Japanese and American release of their counterparts, an excuse to make this a multiplayer mindless shooting fun romp and one that I believe is very welcomed. There is no visible difference between the 4 characters other than palette swaps and quite frankly, Contra 4 really doesn't need it. All the players need to know is that they will armed with a massive weapon to take down those pesky aliens that never give up nor learn their lesson on messing with us Earth people.

The whole design of the stages are inspired by previous games on the series, we got the usual Jungle stage, followed by the Waterfall stage, then by the pseudo 3D Base stage and so on.

Contra 4 adds gaming elements like the ability to crawl on walls and a hook that can latch up to surfaces for you to hang on to avoiding obstacles and deadly pits. The weapons system consists of having two different weapons which you can switch through or simply drop if you wish them to. When you get two weapon power-ups of the same kind, your weapon increases in power and I will state that on this game, you will need all sorts of weaponry available to get through overall, even in the first stages.

You can choose your difficulty setting from the start, which will modify the AI behavior and stock of lives, as well as having weapons already powered-up when you acquire them, or go all out with the most difficult setting where the AI is even more relentless and your stock or lives halved for an added challenge.

Even on the easiest setting however, Contra 4 manages to be one of the most difficult shoot'em ups you will go through. The game will also save progress should you decide to take a break after your last life is snuffed and still have continues left to begin at the last stage you played.

Bonuses include a visual history of all Contra games before this title, cycling through the plot of each and the systems they were released on to. The music is quite engaging, remixing classic tunes and adding new ones. The graphics are very sharp and the sprites move wonderfully as you control your Contra and mow through humanoid and monster enemies. The boss battles are quite engaging and it takes a while to learn their patterns as some are more ruthless than others.

Some of the downsides to the game besides the ever unforgiving difficulty, is how you need to learn the enemy patterns and positions on stages so you may not suffer from continuous cheap deaths, and the fact that the split screen can be both a blessing and a curse, being that at times each do not align perfectly when enemy fire is raining down on your from one screen to the next. You also will find it difficult when trying to align yourself when jumping from screen to screen while going through vertical stages.

As such, even when you feel irate after such a difficult shooting session, you still hunger for more later on and pick up the title once again to input what you have learned and making progress with each gaming session thereafter. Contra 4 has enough to feed your trigger happy impulses and if you are a fan of the series, the nostalgic factor will also be well fed. Come get some!


4/5

CptRetroBlue's avatar
Community review by CptRetroBlue (February 14, 2019)

Cpt. Retro likes old school gaming the most and grew up playing Arcade games in Mexico. He also loves talking about retrogaming.

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Masters posted February 15, 2019:

Cool review. I always wanted to play this one. How would you rank it in terms of difficulty alongside the others (assuming you've played them all)?

Be careful with the typos, as I did spot a few -- I can't remember them all but this one stood out: saying "rump" when you meant "romp."

Hmm, I wonder if it's worth it for me to get a used DS for super cheap to play games like this and the Castlevania games.
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CptRetroBlue posted February 15, 2019:

Thanks for the typo spottings, even when using spell checking software it seems I have to work kinks out on my reviews. Well, Contra 4 is *fairly* difficult especially when you have to memorize enemy spots and their firing range as you rush towards the stages. I'd say its moderate compared to the likes of Contra III on SNES which to me seemed far more difficult, but easier than Hard Corps for Sega Genesis, and I am sure you heard how difficult that title is overall. What threw me off mostly is the double screen which does not align properly when it comes on stages and enemy fire, and the fact you use more buttons than shooting and jumping such as forgetting there is a grappling hook setting. Otherwise, its as difficult as the amount of time you are willing to put into it really.
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Masters posted February 15, 2019:

Yeah, I need to re-read my reviews a few times before submitting them to catch everything.

I haven't played much of Hard Corps, and I really need to. Some say it's the best in the series. I still love the original Contra, which people don't think of as being as hard as it really is, because of the 30-man code, and because it's so old and well known so the strategies are second nature.

I seem to recall Contra III's overhead levels being dumb, but the rest of the game being fantastic.

Just the other day I was playing this clone:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/341550/Super_Cyborg/

I dunno how that guy didn't have Konami coming after him for that. Anyway, it plays exactly the same, but looks uglier, has forgettable music, and its levels are too long and unforgiving. But that Contra feel is definitely there.
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CptRetroBlue posted February 15, 2019:

Wow, Super Cyborg looks nice, think I will give it a try sometime, appreciate the link. And sure, I will be more careful on submitting reviews as I get a bit excited when I finish anything and just push it out of my way without much thought at times ha ha.

I will agree on Contra III, unlike Super C its top down levels seem cumbersome at best. To me the easiest on the series was Super C itself as it was the game I bought when I owned an NES back in the day. To this day I still manage to get pretty far without having to resort to the classic Konami Code and without using a continue. I played it that much lol

I guess older titles seem "easier" for the fact that nostalgia plays a big part and you simply don't bother on how difficult they actually are after going through them for a while, but that's my two cents.
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Masters posted February 15, 2019:

Yes, agreed. I'm pretty sure I got to a point where I was beating Contra without continuing (or the code). Not quite doing it on one man though. That's after years and years of repetition. Super C I didn't play that much -- nobody had it on their NES in my area at the time. I went back and emulated it and maybe beat it once. I think I'll do a Contra revisiting this weekend!
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CptRetroBlue posted February 15, 2019:

Go for it.
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Masters posted February 15, 2019:

This is a list I mostly agree with:

https://chiscroller.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/all-13-contra-games-ranked-from-worst-to-best/

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